Arsenal’s most controversial player right now is Nicolas Pepe, but all things considered, his acclimation has been statistically smooth.
Ask ten Arsenal fans what they think about Nicolas Pepe and you’ll get at least eight different answers. The most expensive transfer in club history has struggled with acclimating this year, but depending on who you ask and what you’re looking at, that struggle has varying degrees of severity.
Statistically speaking, Pepe has had no problem acclimating at all. In fact, in some key areas, he has improved.
Starting with the big numbers—goals and assists, the drop-off has not been that stark. In his final year at Lille, he managed a goal or assist every 100 minutes. This year, he’s at every 135 minutes. Seeing as how we’ve been through three managers and several unnecessary benchings, Pepe is right on target.
Moving on to other stats, let’s look at his ability to dribble and, contrarily, losing possession. Because this is a big one. The biggest criticism of Pepe is his insistence on changing the world with every touch.
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So what do the numbers say? That he’s doing much better than his big breakout year at Lille.
With 2.7 dribbles completed per match this year, Pepe is identical with what he had in his last year at Lille. On the contrary, his ability to retain possession has drastically improved, believe it or not. In his last year at Lille, he was taking 2.9 poor touches and getting dispossessed 2.9 times. For a grand total of 5.8 possession losses per match.
At Arsenal? Just 1.8 dispossessions and 2.0 poor touches. For a grand total of 3.8 possession losses per match. That’s a full two possession losses less than his time in Ligue 1. Meanwhile, he’s completely the same percentage of passes and creating just 0.4 chances less than in Ligue 1.
Moving on to the defense, he is completing 1.3 tackles and 0.3 interceptions per match, compared to 0.7 tackles and 0.3 interceptions at Lille.
Altogether, his goals and assists are the only statistic that hasn’t either significantly improved or stayed relatively the same. Meaning that whatever you think may be happening, Nicolas Pepe is actually taking to life in the Premier League quite well, and nothing you can say will change that.
So let’s all appreciate the prolific attacker that we have and stop whining about every time he tries to do too much. He’s only going to get better, and his improvements from Ligue 1 show that improving is something that comes naturally to him.